Archive for the 'Holidays and Misc.' Category

07
Apr
11

Costa Rica Checklist

I’ve now been employed at the espresso company for eight whopping months.

In those eight months, the longest stretch of time off I’ve had was Thanksgiving weekend (into which I squeezed a trip to England).

That said, I can officially say I am now beyond burnt out.

Perhaps I’m spoiled, I dunno.  After college and life abroad, with my only full time stints of work being four months respectively as a cocktail waitress and a London office girl, this might be the first time in adulthood that I don’t feel like life is separated into little four-month compartments of travel, afternoon naps, and eating out of a can.

Which is why my happy ass is headed to Costa Rica for a well-earned week of leisure.  I plan swimming in waterfalls and staring at active volcanoes.  I plan on bland local food and bunking with lots of other poor 20-somethings.  I expect buyer’s remorse all the way leading up to this thing wondering if Costa Rica is a bit too much of an “obvious” destination.  Whatever.

I wanted to go to North Africa, but I’d hate to get civil unrest all over my luggage.  I also wanted to go to Turkey and Thailand, but the jet lag and plane costs don’t really justify trying to cram it into my measly 7-day window.

So, it’s off to the tropics I go.  As of yesterday, I finally had bullied my boss into approving a week (this was after my original three options sold out and I was worried I’d never get out of here), booked my plane ticket, got signed off by my doctor, and officially booked up with Gap Adventures for the Budget Costa Rica tour.  I also bought a camera ($145) and have been scoping the internet out for a pair of hiking sandals that won’t cost me $50.

From here, I’ll need to do the following:

  1. Purchase Travel Insurance
  2. Book my airport transfer
  3. Hiking sandals
  4. At least one pair of shorts
  5. Rain jacket
  6. Bug spray
  7. Convince self she’s not a fatty-fatty-fat-fat

The trip is May 7 – 14 and yes, I’m going alone.  I like traveling alone (remember Pueblo Ingles?  And, you know, that time I moved to London?)  The fact that my bank account has shrunk by half in the last 24 hours is a little jarring, but after all, I was saving specifically for this.

Honestly, I can’t wait.  Screeching monkeys, giant bugs, and Arenal volcano spitting lava at me be damned.  This is going to be awesome.

09
Apr
10

Vive la Marseille

I’ve been MIA on the blog, perhaps on purpose, for a few months now.  I’ve been trying to get my life in order, but the weather is heating up here in Tampa and it’s driven me to write.  I’m planted firmly in my desk chair looking out at the perfectly clear afternoon day and it’s making me nostalgic for last summer in France.

I remember wading through the ice cold foot bath at the base of the stairs at La Piscine Municpale in Chantemerle after checking on my kids and Nell to meet Lucie with her customary diet coke and giant sunglasses at a patio table she’d managed to swipe for us.  Reclining under the wide band of shade, even with all the complaints we both had about petty little details in our day-to-day existence as au pairs, it was still beautiful.  After a long stretch of silence while we looked out over the sparkling pool and our kids splashing away, she off-handedly remarked, “It’s a great summer.”

And it was.

Angie on the rocks in Vieux Port

Sure, it would end in drama for a few of us (everyone but Angelina).  There was a Norwegian girl who was forcibly evicted from her host home for daring to stand up to the bully of a mother, and in the final week before we parted, we accidentally flooded Lucie’s host house to the point where it was raining in the living room.  There was also this incredibly melodramatic interlude between us and some Moroccan jackass in the Old Town who not only got rude, but attempted to get physical.  And there was, of course, the trauma of having to leave my girls that final time after nine months of attachment.

But first, there was Marseille.  Beautiful, beautiful Marseille.

Lost in Marseille

It was supposed to have been the three of us; Angelina, Lucie, and myself taking a weekend trip to the South of France to see one of the oldest cities in the world.  We’d planned it from the week that we all met and were finally putting our plan into action when Lucie realized her host mom, Sabine, was never going to give her time off.  I mean, ever.  Lucie worked every single day of that summer apart from the weekend she went to Milano for a romantic tryst.

I was pretty upset that she couldn’t come, but Angie and I booked our 5 hour train tickets and a room in a greasy motel near a metro station anyway, and met at the crack of dawn to head to the coast equipped with our Torino standbys of Fruit and Nutella-filled crepes, and this time some toffee I’d made in a moment of absolute boredom at the house while my kids were off with their cousins.

It was unbelievably hot the day we went.  I think after the winter, shoulder-deep in snow, I’d made myself believe that it never got hot in my little corner of France, but I was deluded.  It was scorching.  Marseille was about ten times worse.

Palais du Longchamp

Angie and I staggered off of the train around midday, immediately realized that we wouldn’t be walking anywhere, as we had in Torino, and immediately purchased metro tickets.  We got off at the right stop, but the directions of the various locals were convoluted and we ended up walking well past our hotel in the staggering heat, with our bags, for the better part of an hour before finding the right place.  When we passed by the building with a giant question mark, we decided it was a sign from God to turn around and start over.

It would take pages to cover everything we experienced in Marseille, so I’ve chosen two of the most all-encompassing experiences to highlight below.

Bouillabaisse

You can’t go to Marseille and not eat the most famous dish ever associated with a city.  Of course, if you eat right on Vieux Port, it’s going to cost you about 35€ for a bowl of the succulent fish soup, so Angelina and I scoured the areas surrounding the port during the daylight hours.  We originally intended to eat right on this gorgeous wooden ship comme restaurant anchored in view of the Chateau d’Elf, but alas, that boat was holding a sold out event that night and it wasn’t a possibility.

What we ended up finding was a little restaurant hidden in the stacked, Mediterranean style streets behind the water offering three courses for a measly 15€.  The soup was incredible, as is to be expected, as were the oysters I ordered, and Angelina’s almond-stuffed clams.  Dessert was goat’s cheese in a rosemary and olive oil sauce with bits of bread.

My favorite part of the meal by far, though, was when Angelina went for a bathroom break and got stuck drinking champagne with the chef for twenty minutes while he offered to chauffeur her around the city with roses at her feet.  It is extra amusing because he pulled the same move when I went up there and seemed shocked that I was onto his game following the performance with my dinner buddy.  It was just so … French.

Swimming in the Riviera

Our full day in Marseille was fully exhausting.  So exhausting that in retrospect, I’m shocked we managed to do anything the following morning, prior to our 2pm train, other than lie face down in our hotel room, groaning.

I woke up early and walked to the market that was on the same street as our hotel to buy some baguettes, fruit, and fresh yogurt for breakfast, and after a hotel-bed picnic, the two of us somehow managed to mobilize and get ourselves packed up and on the correct bus to the beach.

We chose a stop near a ferris wheel and across the street from a famous memorial park.  We’d worn dresses for the commute and had to change on the beach, but with all the topless, skin happy people from 2 years old to well past 80 wandering around, it was a stress-free experience.

The water had to have been the most perfect temperature in nature.  I understood immediately after slipping off of one of the giant rocks that extended into the ocean why the South of France is so famous for its beaches, even when it shares an ocean with Italy, Greece, Malta, etc.

We lost track of time entirely, floating along in the perfect wake.  All of the stress from a summer of living with our employers, all of the soreness and heat from trudging around like mad tourists the previous day, all of the thoughts of the future just melted into the perfect blue water and drifted out to sea.

We made casual conversation with fellow beach goers, we sunned on the giant rocks, and we let the sand get between our toes without a worry in the world, even when we realized it was time to go.

We took the metro back to the big train station, and spent our last precious minutes in Marseille buying postcards, a French fashion magazine, and some candy and water for the ride.  We met an American woman headed to Aix-en-Provence on the train who talked a lot about herself and her plans over the first three hours of the ride.

We were originally to go to Aix (pronounced “eggs”).  It had only changed to Marseille in the last two weeks or so.

I think Angie and I realized at the very same moment as the American woman departed into the tiny provincial gare that our change of itinerary was maybe one of the best travel decisions we’d ever made.

09
Jun
09

Failure – in Dutch

 

Beach Promenade in Noordwijk

Beach Promenade in Noordwijk

So, I left Holland.  

I don’t even think I was there for a full 48 hours.  Why?  Well, I hated it, for one.  And two, it quickly became apparent that it was illogical to stay there for a multitude of reasons, many of which were financial.

I would say that I didn’t get to enjoy it at all, but that’s not the entire truth.  I arrived at the hostel in a bad mood, due to the weight of my backpack and my impatience to get into the city.  I was starving and cold (the Netherlands had been struck by a freak cold front, and I was ill-equipped to handle it).  

I set up shop in my little hostel bunk, and (as I said before), met my very smelly bunk mate before venturing out for McD’s, planning to hit the streets of Amsterdam the following day to seek out gainful employment.

I guess I should’ve done better research.  To start with, I missed the 9:30am shuttle to the city (under the impression that there was another mid-day, which there was not), and had to pay about 10€ out of pocket to use the public transport to get there, where I traipsed for several hours in cheap, Primark shoes, looking for hostels.

I passed by some beautiful and bizarre things, but didn’t stop to take photos of much because I assumed I’d be in town for a while (oops.)  I did stop to photograph this:

 

Three Living Statues - Traditional, Darth Flavored, and The Mask

Three Living Statues - Traditional, Darth Flavored, and The Mask

Anyway, I only found one hostel, and they weren’t hiring.  I crawled back to Noordwijk exhausted and moody, and not nearly in the state of mind to go down into the hostel bar and party with a bunch of idiot pot heads away from home for the first time.

I inquired at the desk of the hostel where I was staying (even though I knew I didn’t want to stay on the beach), about jobs, but it turns out they don’t hire Americans (visa problems), which is when I started to melt down.  I was starving and didn’t have much cash.  (I ended up eating this disgusting flat meat in bread thing from a street vendor several hours later out of desperation.)

I whipped out  my laptop and signed into the beach hostel’s rather subpar wireless connection to lament my panicked situation to James.  I hadn’t found anything, would run out of cash over the weekend if I stayed, and all my money from my account in London was still in transit to my American bank account.  After about an hour of delegating options, I decided maybe I should just head back to England and crash with him.  It was an embarrassing failure, but would ultimately save me money in the long run.

We booked my flight, and I hitched a ride to the airport the next morning with the Amsterdam shuttle, and was able to sleep soundly, though I never gained enough energy to want to go party downstairs.  I packed up the next morning with mixed feelings, safe but failed, and didn’t manage to actually enjoy any of Holland while I was here.

I sat eating toast downstairs, awaiting my shuttle, when the Czech girls who’d bunked with me showed up and asked if I’d like to join them on a beach walk before the shuttle departed.

 

Czech Girls taking photos on the coast

Czech Girls taking photos on the coast

One of them looked remarkably like the girl I’d replaced at Digby Morgan in London (and weirdly enough, had family in Canada), and as I’d had breakfast with them the previous morning, we’d gotten chatty and it seemed like a good idea to have a bit of fun before leaving.

 

We walked down the harbor line, admiring the statues and the lighthouse and taking some photos along the way.  They were visiting to use the library in nearby Leiden to do some research for not-Janet’s PhD dissertation in African Evangelist culture.  Apparently student libraries in the Czech are a bit sub par.  They had lots of questions about America and what I was doing in Europe.

 

Standing in front of a massive sculpture of a fist holding a windmill/pinwheel thing

Standing in front of a massive sculpture of a fist holding a windmill/pinwheel thing

 

 

We ended up barefoot, walking along the sandy beach while one of them looked for shells (I saw no shells), and the other continued to talk to me in much better English about the Czech and all the American English teachers in Prague.

Eventually we ended up sitting cross-legged next to a boat dock where they promptly rolled up a joint and passed it back and forth.  Never having tried pot myself, I agreed to take a small try of it, but found it distasteful (literally, I could taste it for hours afterward).  At least I didn’t do that embarrassing first-time coughing fit thing.

 

 

 

 

We exchanged contact info back at the hostel before taking off with the shuttle back to Amsterdam and the airport.  

I was feeling progressively more content after at least having a good time while in Holland, if only briefly, and spent a pleasant few hours in the airport with my new book (The Gargoyle – very good read), and a salmon baguette.

I got back to England a few hours later, and can’t say I wasn’t relieved.  I’m now working on rebooting my freelance career (I know I say that all the time, but I actually have a lead from today’s efforts), maybe finding some part time pub work, and ultimately regrouping before heading off to Spain next week, and back to France for the rest of the summer.

I need to go back to Holland some day – hopefully in the near future.  But for now, at least I have one fond memory to take with me.

 

Taking in a brief moment of sunlight in Noordwijk

Taking in a brief moment of sunlight in Noordwijk

03
Jun
09

Amsterdam Log – Day 1, Pt. 2

Oh, my God, I’m exhausted.  

The flight itself was fine.  In fact, it was probably the easiest flight I’ve ever had in my life.  About an hour long, half empty plane, smooth landing (I hate landings), so all in all, pretty perfect.

However, Amsterdam and the surrounding regions have suddenly been hit by a cold front, and it’s effing freezing here.  I think the pilot described it as “blistery” as we were landing.

I got through passport control pretty quickly, though the guard guy let me know in a good natured manner that I can do all the sightseeing necessary in two days, and two weeks was certainly overkill.

I got a train to Leiden, which didn’t provide much scenery that I can describe as exciting, and then caught a bus over here to Noordwijk, which is the little beach-front village where my hostel is located.

I totally missed my stop from exhaustion and didn’t realize for like twenty minutes.  The very friendly bus-driver man did me the honor of obnoxiously flagging down a bus going in the opposing direction, including multiple honks and arm waving, so I wouldn’t have to pay my fare twice.  

By the time I made it to the right area, my back was killing me, I was starving again, and I wanted nothing more than to take a hot shower, log in to my email and such, and maybe take a short nap before attempting to socialize in the hostel bar.

The room I was assigned to was a bit of a wreck.  I assumed that two of the other three beds were full, as there was an array of clothing drying and this and that out on two of the other beds.  I dropped my backpack on the remaining top bunk and after slouching forward, motionless for a few minutes, decided to venture out for food before doing anything else.

I ventured out into the gray late afternoon and my intuition led me to the left.  The wind was picking up, making it feel even colder, which I’m assuming probably has to do with being right next to the sea.  I zipped up my hoodie to spinster height to keep myself warm, and turned into a little alleyway that led to what appeared to be a supermarket.

I’ll go ahead and say the Dutch supermarket goes into the list of weirdest food shopping experiences I’ve had so far.  I didn’t end up buying anything, because all of their ready-made products were … some variation of pancakes.  And it didn’t appeal to me.

Disheartened, I left the supermarket, my stomach grumbling, as an enthusiastic door boy bade me farewell in Dutch, and walked along the rest of the market square, attempting to decipher the restaurant menus on the doors.

I gave up on trying to figure out what the food products were when I saw the prices.  Things were ranging around 20€+ per plate, which is waaaay out of my price range.

Feeling progressively more sorry for myself, and wondering if I’d go to bed hungry tonight, I walked further down the strip, searching menus for anything in a reasonable price range.  Unfortunately, all the little delis and such were long closed by 8pm, and I wasn’t finding any options.

Then, like a beacon glowing in the distance, I caught sight of the golden arches rising over the overpriced surroundings like a pillar of hope, out of the corner of my eye.  Not the ideal thing I’d have upon immediately arriving in a foreign country, but it’d do the trick.

So, a Big Mac and coke later, I was fighting the wind to walk up onto the pier just to get a look at the ocean before coming back to my room and taking a shower.  To my great shock, there were people bobbing around out there in that frigid water on wake boards… I guess to each his own.

I would’ve sat on the beach and taken it in for a while if the wind weren’t so aggressive and freezing, but I figured I might as well head back at least for a while, shower off, do my internet stuff, and maybe grab a drink downstairs in an hour or two.

In the midst of my computer addiction feeding, I met my roommate for the evening, singular.  A very messy guy, apparently, named Adrian.  Who wants to be a filmmaker … of course, and produce films about things that explode.  He’s from Colorado, talks quite loudly as to not encourage response, and reeks of pot.  I think he’s out for the rest of the night, which is most welcome, as I’d really like to recline for a bit without feeling awkward.

Also, he thought Cloverfield was totally awesome.  Barf.

Anyway, off to shower now, then to find some hostels to hit up tomorrow on my map.  The beach is nice and everything, but I really need to be in a city right now, as soon as possible.

03
Jun
09

Amsterdam Log – Day 1, Pt. 1

12:37 pm

 

I am starving.  My train to the airport just pulled out of Reading Station.  I’m in my seat, mission(s) accomplished from yesterday, and looking forward to this next adventure to an extreme degree, but my stomach is killing me.  Can’t wait to get to the airport and have some grub.

 

Truth be told, I’m a little hungover from last night.  Around 6pm, James and I took the train into London to meet some of my old colleagues for drinks and Mexican at a little restaurant in Westminster called Benito’s Hat.  The burritos were good and the margaritas were better.

 

I wasn’t sure how this outing was going to swing, considering how much of a failure my nights out with the same people were when I actually lived in London.  I think I was at a vulnerable point in my life then, and felt a bit overwhelmed by being in a new city surrounded by people who seemed more comfortable than me when I was working at Digby Morgan.  Now, I can count most of my former admin girls as close friends, and hitting the town with them was as much fun as it should’ve been all along.

 

Oddly enough, they all kept telling me how “healthy” I looked.  I suppose this is a compliment and I should just accept it, but I do wonder what the hell they were referring to.  Perhaps the weight I gained in Florida gave me that plump, domesticated look.

 

Anyway, we hung out in London for a few hours before heading home (it was a Tuesday, after all).  James and I decided to do the irresponsible thing when we got back to Reading and went to another bar, promptly ordering a pitcher of Reef, Red Bull, and vodka, and splitting it between us in a booth far enough away from the thumping house music to actually hear each other.

 

I’m pretty sure we got the kind of drunk that annoys the hell out of sober people, because every little piece of conversation starts to seem revelatory.  So, obviously we stayed up until 3am having faux philosophical reflection on the bed in our hotel room with our paper-bag picnic of after-hours-kebab-place burgers and hotel tap water spread out between us.

 

Needless to say, it was good times.

 

And, somehow, we ended up waking up on time, and I got all my crap done!  Bank account closed, flight to Madrid booked, retail therapy complete!  

 

I never made it to a doctor, but I figure if the problem persists, I can always go see a GP in the Netherlands.  They probably have lots of tourist medicenters for idiot twenty-something tourists who take too many magic mushrooms and end up convinced their respective body-parts have turned into assorted marine life.

 

I think if I’d stuck with my original plan and was en route to Paris today instead of to Amsterdam, I’d be a ball of nerves.  I can’t precisely say why, but I feel like I just have a much better chance of surviving this way than I would tossing myself into Paris at the head of summer when a bed in a 18-bunk hostel room costs 30€ a night.

 

Being able to feel calm is making me look forward to this trip so much more, even though I’m sure finding a bit of work isn’t going to be a cakewalk.  Also, I didn’t have to go through an emotionally wrenching, cliché goodbye on the train platform (with James sorrowfully waving a white kerchief at me as I pressed my tearstained face to the window of my departing train), since he’s decided to come see me next weekend in Amsterdam!

 

Yeah, we’re sickening – deal with it.

 

For now, I’m going to lean back in my seat and bemoan my empty, upset stomach, and fantasize about the meal plan from Boots that’s got my name on it in the Gatwick main terminal.

 

I’ll check back in later – –

 

2:45 pm

 

Unable to login to the internet at Gatwick, because like assholes, they’ve employed a T-Mobile Hot Spot instead of free wifi.  

 

I’m waiting at my gate presently, feeling like a dunce because I had to throw away half my toiletries because they were more than 100mg.  What I should’ve done was check the backpack, minus laptop, and carry that and whatever else I’d use on the flight in my canvas grocery bag thing.

 

Oh well.  

 

I fell asleep on the train over and am just now starting to feel the butterflies of nervousness … I’m sure I’ll be fine, but finding something that pays me a bit of cash would just be amazing so I can earn back some of the incredible amount of dough I’ve lost over the past few months.

 

I think by the time my gig in France ends in September, I’ll be craving the stability of a paycheck for a little while, though probably not forever and ever.  It’ll just be nice not to wonder where I’m sleeping or how I’m eating for a bit.  I miss living in London so much.

 

Anywho, looks like my plane just finished loading up luggage, so we’re probably boarding soon.  Wish me luck.

02
Jun
09

$/£ = :(

I must be stopped … Primark is the devil.  The fact that you can walk out of there with half a new wardrobe and only having spent £25 is against nature.  Anyway, I have to go back in and swap out a few things and return a few things later … my willpower will be tested and hopefully I won’t be tempted to buy anything else.

I had a mission or five today.  Before flying to Amsterdam, the following was my to do list:

  1. Go to the doctor to get antibiotics, a new rescue inhaler, and a refill of the Pill
  2. Close my bank account and transfer the money to America
  3. Buy 100 Euros for Holland
  4. Buy close-toed shoes

Please note that only # 4 was completed.  I have two pairs now (I’ll return the one that loses the final gladiator battle tonight), along with sunglasses, new flip flops, around a dozen new shirts, and a feeling of self loathing.

I failed to accomplish #1 because there is, somehow, no emergency care facility in Reading, at all.  I thought about going to London after lunch, because I’m going into the city tonight anyway to have dinner with some girls I used to work with, but I never made it over there because – 

I failed to accomplish #2 due to the fact that American banks don’t have IBAN numbers and I didn’t have the plethora of information required to do the six day, £10 transfer the four (4) times I ran to NatWest today.  I might (MIGHT) be able to speed get this done tomorrow before my flight, but it will leave me without access to my money for almost a week, which is a problem.  My NatWest ATM card has ceased to work for reasons the bank cannot explain, which means I can’t use it … which is why –

I failed to accomplish #3

Maybe all the Primark clothes are some sort of overcompensation.  I’ll just use this very special time of incompetence to tell you that everyone who works at the NatWest Reading branch makes me uncomfortable, it’s been mildly hot here today, which has inspired every English man in a ten mile radius to take off his shirt, and there are two people dressed as Batman and Superman soliciting people for credit cards in the road below my hotel room.

Also, I need to buy conditioner.

List for prior to plane departure:

  1. Research travel into Amsterdam
  2. Reserve bus spot from Amsterdam to Noordwijk, where my hostel is
  3. Buy conditioner
  4. Mark some hostels on my map of Amsterdam to go solicit the day after tomorrow
  5. Return/Swap out Primark stuff and shoes
  6. Accomplish List A, 1-3
  7. Ponder if being stressed out about this is ironic or ungrateful
30
May
09

We Made it Back to England

I’m finally clean and feeling a bit rested after the chaos that was yesterday.  I’m currently munching on a tandoori chicken pizza from dominos at the Penta hotel in Reading, which has been a frequent stop off for James and me while he saves up to buy his own flat.  

They’ve just finished all their super fancy renovations, and rather than looking like the hotel in The Shining, this place has actually taken on a pretty cool art deco feel.  Unfortunately, now it costs all four of its stars.

Our plane last night finally took off at about midnight EST.  We did end up being the last people in the Charlotte airport, sitting under a few bulbs by gate D13 as the rest of the building went dark.  James and I stayed huddled behind the adjacent boarding gate where my laptop was plugged in, assuming varied degrees of collapse as the hours passed by.

So, when they announced that our replacement service from Philadelphia had finally arrived, around 10:4opm, the room burst into some very echo-y applause, that somehow managed to be both enthusiastic and a clear indication of how wiped out everyone was by the six hour delay.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget standing in line to board next to some kid, face down on the carpet, refusing to be responsive to his father’s persistent nudging with the toe of his boot.  That kid pretty much sums up how we all felt.

Immediately after take off, it was a struggle not to simply find the least awkward propped contortion and go unconscious, but I figured it’d be worth the effort to wait for dinner to be served before getting down to that.  So, half a chicken breast and some roast potatoes later, I attempted to arrange myself into the best possible position and pass the hell out.

I was actually shocked to be jolted awake nine hours later by the announcement that we were an hour outside of London, and to prepare for the breakfast danish they were in the process of bestowing upon us.  Somehow, there was brilliant sunlight streaming in from the window cracks as we flew over the Irish sea.  According to the pilot, it was going to be beautiful and sunny all day.

The part of traveling to the UK I hate the most is going through the border.  So, as I filled out my landing card over my danish and orange juice, I went through the multitude of explanations I would present for being in the country again, three weeks after having departed.  

The “I’m staying with my British boyfriend,” bit was the part I dreaded the most, but somehow, miraculously, I got the most laid back border official in the universe.  It went like this:

“Hi there, business or pleasure?”

“Bit of both.  I’m going to look at some grad schools.”

“K, how long you staying?”

“Until Wednesday.”

*Stamp*  “All rightie, then.  Have a nice stay.”

I kind of ran out of the terminal for fear it was all some sort of trick.  Usually I get a full interrogation when I enter the country, so, that was really nice … for once.

After an hour and a half on a train to Reading, we were retrieved by James’ mom and driven to their house in the middle of the allergen-heavy English countryside.  You could literally see the spores floating in the air over the beautiful meadows of flowers and long grass.

I was given an allergy pill upon arrival at their house, but the grogginess still hasn’t completely worn off.  We stuck around and had a burger, swapped out some luggage to bring just a small bag to the Penta, and then headed back to Reading for some much needed R&R.

There was a wedding reception going on down in the lobby when we got here, with probably the most unfortunate looking bridesmaids I’ve ever seen in my life.  All gathered pink crinoline and stiff up-do’s.  

We’re also on the same floor with a bunch of possible teenage stripper types who are getting a great thrill out of slamming doors and making lots of noise, so I might have to be a grandma and complain a bit later.  And … the elevator is broken, so since we’re on the 6th floor, we’ve been using the service elevator, which has been interesting.

Anyway, I’m off to crack open the bottle of rosé that was pressed insistently upon me by James’ dad, and have a rest in front of the tube.  Hopefully, I overcome the jet lag quickly.




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